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Agriculture and Natural Resources

Marc Linit, PhD, associate dean, and David Baker, program director and assistant dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
cafnr.missouri.edu/extension

 

photo: Agriculture and natural resources program

Jim Crawford, left, an MU Extension natural resource engineer, describes research at Graves-Chapple Research Center, near Rock Port, to participants of MU's Sonja Hillgren Farm Journal Science and Agricultural Journalism Field Reporting Institute. The experience exposed budding reporters to the need to gather multiple perspectives in their stories and the mechanics of boots-on-the-ground research to help them produce more accurate, detailed and engaging stories. In this case, they covered the often-conflicting management issues for the river, from flood prevention to wildlife conservation and navigation.

Missouri is fortunate to have a diversity of natural and human resources and a sophisticated business base on which to build a progressive agricultural and state economy. Although this diversity provides many opportunities, it also presents challenges in such areas as energy, climate, water quantity and quality, distribution of farm size and scale, new markets, consumer understanding of agriculture, diversity of workforce and transportation. MU Extension addresses these challenges and opportunities.

The following examples demonstrate the impact of MU Extension on the lives of Missourians last year.

Livestock production accounts for approximately 53 percent of the state's agricultural receipts. As a direct result of the MO PORK program, pork producers have reformulated their swine diets using the National Swine Nutrition Guide formulator, resulting in a feed savings of more than $36 million. Data from the pasture-based dairy program has consistently shown that milk can be produced at $3 to $4 less per 100 pounds when compared to conventional dairy systems. During the past 15 years, the economic impact resulting from Show-Me-Select, a statewide on-farm heifer development and marketing program, has exceeded $60 million. The MU Extension beef nutrition program educated producers on strategies to reduce their hay needs by 10 to 30 percent and cut supplementation cost by 25 percent.

photo: Ag specialist Heather Smith teaching students about food sources

Heather Smith, MU Extension livestock specialist in Callaway County, helps a kindergartener at Two Mile Prairie Elementary in Columbia with his agriculture collage as part of Smith's "Ag in My World" program. Smith uses the program to help educate youth about agriculture, its jobs and products, so they have a better understanding of where their food comes from.

The wide range of climate and topography, coupled with the availability of irrigation in the state, results in diverse production of forages and crops such as corn, rice, soybeans, wheat, cotton and horticulture output. The Missouri Pesticide Use Act requires anyone using restricted-use pesticides to be trained and certified. Last year MU Extension faculty provided certification and recertification training for more than 3,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators. A random sample survey of rice producers found that educational efforts by MU Extension faculty led to an increase of acres scouted by professionals from 11 percent in 1996 to 54 percent in 2011. Educating producers about better irrigation management resulted in increased production valued at about $40 million last year. Crop advisers and managers who attended the 2011 Crop Management Conference manage more than four million acres throughout the Midwest. They received current research findings on topics such as pest management, soil health, nutrient management, climate variability and land economics. Last year, Master Gardeners contributed 145,273 volunteer hours with an estimated impact on their communities of nearly $2.86 million.

The future economic viability of the complex and ever-changing agriculture industry depends on practitioners having the business skills and vision necessary to make sound management decisions. The estimated 10-year present value of those businesses assisted by the Missouri Value Added Center is $78 million, along with the creation of 185 jobs. Seventy-three percent of participants in estate planning workshops indicated they would develop an estate plan as a result of their attendance. Ninety-eight percent of those who attended the statewide ITV fence law sessions indicated they better understood Missouri fence law requirements.

Missourians have a strong interest and commitment to protecting the environment and the state's natural resources. MU Extension has offered educational classes for private citizens on the proper care and maintenance of on-site sewage systems. As a result of these educational efforts, participants showed a 67-86 percent increase in knowledge gained. In one single targeted area, more than 300 people have implemented proper pumping and maintenance programs. Participants in the Missouri Woodland Steward Program implemented forest management plans and estimated that they increased the value of their forests by $750 per acre as compared to those that had no management plans.